I must admit, it is quite the coincidence that you came into ‘Mike’s’ life the very night I gave up trying to be a part of it.
It’s not as if I haven’t tried, many times, to explain things to my little brother before, but, as he proudly admits, somewhere around eight years old, ‘Mike’ decided he was right about everything. I am still hoping that one day he will understand the consequences of that.
I see why you and ‘Mike’ make a good team.
He needs you.
I hope I can convince you that I have his best interest at heart.
His middle name is ‘David’ because, at four years old, my best mate down the road was ‘David’.
I remember the first joke he made;
“Why does a cow moo?”
“Because it mao’s cow!”
I have two questions I would like you to think about while reading this;
1. At what point am I legitimately allowed to be angry at my little brother?
2. In what universe does the baby of the family know more than his mother?
Actually three; What is he so afraid of?
I can’t just tell ‘Mike’ what to do.
I have, where I can tried to steer him right.
From wayback when; the club night; ‘Tangled’, in Manchester, where I spent half the night peeling him off a fruit machine and pushing him back to the dance floor, to demanding he send me his dissertation, to make sure he didn’t balls up the same thing twice, to picking him up whenever he had a flat tyre, to contacting you directly about the ‘Wedding Band’.
I am happy to admit that the last one was, just as much, for me.
Honestly, without them I would have slid off back to my hotel shortly after the speeches. It would have been beyond uncomfortable otherwise.
Still, someone had to get Dad there.
Remember that if it wasn’t for me; the band would have sucked and, literally, no one from ‘Mike’s’ first family would have attended.
The things I do for that boy.
There have been many times where I have been trying to get something through to ‘Mike’ and I can look in his eyes and see he has stopped listening because he has already thought of his next move in the debate, only it’s not a debate.
In asking ‘Mike’ to take some cherries to ‘Mum’ I was hoping he would actually take the fruit himself; to give him a reason to just spend time with his own mother.
Perhaps, for example, he might have noticed how, with her ‘Diabetes’ worsening, he would take something on board about her general health, something I am more and more inclined to discuss on a regular basis, if there is anyone to discuss it with?
Instead, two things happened;
One; as usual, “Mr Right” doubled down on being ‘right’.
Two; you came and brought, strawberries and apologised for not bringing cherries. In that moment you achieved something far, far more important.
You made her smile.
Later, when she told me about your visit, I saw it; a unique, pristine, smile, certainly new to me. She knew I had, somehow, made that happen, but she couldn’t figure out how, a puzzle she could not solve!
In that gesture, you have shown more genuine compassion and empathy for ‘Mum’ than your husband has in, well, probably… ever.
As far as I can tell, ‘Mike’ sees himself as a protector.
Who is he protecting?
‘Mike’ has drawn the conclusion that Mum doesn’t like people and generally doesn’t like people, or something like that.
Let’s unpick that.
Do you include yourself in that?
Does your husband?
Your husband is the one that needs to think about that the most.
There are people you like and people you don’t like, that’s normal, right?
Same with Mum.
No one ‘wants’ to be alone.
Mum, like all people, likes spending time with people who actually want to spend time with her.
One reason I invited ‘Ruth’ to your wedding was because of the Christmas we picked her up from a place where, at the time, she was, sort of, staying with an abusive partner. After everyone had gone home and I’d fallen asleep, ‘Ruth’ went down to the kitchen and found Mum awake, and they got chatting for a few hours before she had to go back. Ruth is one of those people unfettered with the benefit of ‘Mike’s’ ‘wisdom’ about his mother.
In fairness, Ruth has enough on her own plate and, as I had to tell her why I wanted her to come, she didn’t really want to jump in on my family issues and I can’t blame her for that.
You may have to consider that either, you have married a modern miracle; the first man to go through his whole life without disappointing his mother in any way, or there is something terribly amiss.
It’s my understanding that there are common stages between a child and a parent. At some point the parent sees the child as a adult and the child sees the parent as a person. I’m told this realisation often occurs in men with the birth of their first child. That feeling of unconditional love is shortly followed by the realisation that whatever you have done for your parents it was not enough.
For example; ‘Mum’ got ‘Mike’ his first ‘work experience placement’ at ‘Crofton Lesiure Centre’.
Who does he think taught him how to read?
You have never needed ‘Mike’s ‘permission to have a relationship with Mum, yet that does seem to be how it works with ‘Mike’. You would think that, normally, if not an elder brother, a mother should have an absolute right to criticise her son. Does it not feel, at all, like ‘Mike’ has ‘managed’ this relationship? Doesn’t ‘Mike’ tend to do, say, or get what he wants. Do you not think that if ‘Mike’ wanted to spend time with his mum the he would just do so?
There is a difficult ‘Catch 22’ to manage here. One of the many ways I am different to ‘Mike’ is that I am not at all comfortable talking about him behind his back. It feels disloyal and dishonourable. I have tried to talk to ‘Mike’ and he will turn it into an argument or, when losing the argument, change the argument to one he can win and ‘Mike’s’ version of everything stands.
Let me tell you about the last time I had my heart broken; ‘Emanuelle’. I fell for her, massively. My last infatuation.
In truth it was only a few months and she was very ‘French’ about it. If I saw her today, I would tell her she was right and that there were no hard feelings. I got over it.
My friend ‘Anton’ told me recently that he thought I changed when this happened and he was right, not because of the girl, however, because when I rang my brother up one night and, (bearing in mind he only knew ‘Emanuelle’ through me), he told me he was at my ex-girlfriends party and I needed to get new friends. I had to face the realisation that these slaps in the face were never going to stop.
My brother was never going to be there for me and, in fact, half the time, he was the one putting the boot in and I just needed to accept the fact that my brother will throw me under a bus in a heartbeat to sort himself out.
Oh yeah, and then spin a story where he is right and I wanted him to do what he did.
When it is just the two of us, I can lie to his face and agree with him about everything, if we want to get through a few pints, I can stomach that acquiesence.
Standing in a room full of people who only know me through what ‘Mike’ has told them about me is a deeply uncomfortable thing and I have neither the time or the inclination to unpick what Mike has said about me.
So I can manage that for a couple of hours before I remember there’s no point me being there and it’s a short walk home from the ‘Catford Club’.
Do you remember the night we went to the ‘New Cross Inn’ to see the band? Perhaps you noticed I seemed more relaxed? That’s because I find going for a night out with people I trust more relaxing.
I know how many times ‘Mike’ has humiliated me, likely, any time he speaks of me would be a little humiliating if I were in the room but then I am only ‘Mike’s’ brother.
Mum simply does not have the vocabulary to explain that being invited to a party where you are to be introduced to a room of mostly strangers as, ‘Someone who does not like people,’ might be a bit too much. If you were invited to a party that way would you be more or less inclined to go?
Besides, who would she tell it to, ‘Mike’ has told everyone to stay away.
The lengths ‘Mike’ is prepared to go to be ‘right’ are staggering and come with an added bonus; skipping out on the part where you are actually there for your parents in old age. I’ve already had this years first, 3am sit with ‘Dad’ through an Asthma attack, seconds away from deciding to call an ambulance.
There is no argument here. ‘Mike’ should feel an obligation to take more time and care with his parents.
Quite apart from the fact that;
What mother wouldn’t want to see their son?
How often do you want to see your husband?
Once a week or, at least, hear from them?
‘Mike’ does not have this because he has not taken the time to build that kind of relationship with his mum.
I can barely imagine the picture your husband has painted of his mother.
This is what happpens when an eight year old decides he is in charge of a familiy.
Your ‘Mother in Law’ is a beautiful woman, full of grace, intelligence, responsibility and everything else you could hope for. She has long since given up on ‘Mike’ actually being there for her. She is protecting herself.
I don’t hold out much hope for him changing yet feel obliged to try one last time.
‘Mum’ is still the smartest, strongest pesron I know.
You are mistaken to pity someone who has been so instrumental, so fundamental, to this day, to all of our lives.
You are missing out on the good bits.
If you spend enough time with Mum and you are actually interested in what she has to say, just ask her.
Once she trusts you she will tell you.
Again, remind your husband, this is what any normal human being would do.
You just have to want to listen.
It’s not about showing up on birthdays, it is precisely; ‘if ‘Mike’ has got time to give ‘Noula’ swimming lessons, why has my own son no time for me?’
Heartbreaking to think about for too long.
It’s not about being part of your lives, it is, very much, supposed to be the other way around, it’s about making the effort to be present in her life today. It is the least that is expected of a child.
It’s not about the ‘cherries’, it’s about bringing the cherries.
It is, very much, my hope that you can help my little brother have a relationship with his mother, and in doing so, perhaps find one yourself.
There are things that she will never tell me, her other son, her husband, or anyone else. There are conversations that she has imagined having a thousand times that she never will.
There are things that she has saved and, most likely, imagined saving just for you.
Words, ideas, advice, commonality.
None of those things come without trust.
‘Mike’ takes great pride in telling me we are a forgiving family.
He should fucking know.
It is absurd to think that a mother doesn’t know her own son.
It is obscene for a son to speak on his mothers behalf without her permission.
This is another way I differ from my brother; I would never presume to speak with confidence on behalf of my mother without her permission, I completely respect that you come as a team, yet my argument really only is with my little brother.
Even now, I would never be so bold as to speak on behalf of my mother but, as I speak to her every day I can make some informed guesses.
I feel we are genuinely happy that Mike has found someone he actually listens to.
I have always been out of the loop when your husband has spoken on his family’s behalf, for example; it was only when you invited me over while Mike was away that I found out that, at one family ‘do’ I was invited to, my whole family had decided I was abusing my girlfriend.
How many years later and you were the first person to ask and the first person I told that ‘Begoña’ was, very much, into self harm and I had become more of a bad nurse than a boyfriend.
The other problem I have is that I shouldn’t have to betray the confidence of someone I still care for, or at least, wish the best for, just to make myself look better; glass houses and all that.
Exactly how am I supposed to live down the cobined shame of my family’s opinion of me and the compromise of my ex-girlfriends trust?
I’ve had thirty odd years of my brother speaking on my behalf, as has Mum.
I understand now why you must feel I do no like you, please understand it is only your husband I do not like, and, while I cannot be sure, I am, reasonably, confident Mum feels the same way.
I am trying to get my brother to spend time with his mum, treat her with dignity, kindness and respect while he still can… and I’m the crazy one.
Pretty sweet deal where Mike get’s to skip out on the hard part; he skipped out of the rest of it, so what’s the difference?
“Oh, but, that’s just ‘Mike’ being ‘Mike’… smiley face emoji.
I am well aware of ‘Mike’ just being ‘Mike’.
My family, for whatever it is, I guess, forgot to tell ‘Mike’ that he was never in charge of it…
He just told everyone he was and then took no responsibility for his actions.
Another fundamental difference between my brother and I is certainty. I am aware that I anything I have written may or may not be right. I constantly question who I am; no one is ever one hundred percent anything.
This is concept, I am sure ‘Mike’ can understand, yet he doesn’t seem to see how it applys to him.
If I am not to be listened to by my brother,
If, whenever I disagree with him, I am to automatically be wrong,
If he can pass judgement on me yet not look at himself,
well, there’s not a lot in that for me.
As I said, I just got tired of it and let him crack on.
This is different.
I find out, from my mother, what my brother has been saying about her for years, the night before his wedding. Funny, he never mentioned it to me, I would have tried to set him straight and he would not have listened.
I have been perfectly fine with how much of a part of my brother’s life I am.
Now I am not.
There is no other possible outcome to ‘Mike’ telling people ‘Mum’ ‘wants’ to be alone than just that.
Remeber how long it took for me to find out you all thought I was a wifebeater.
When do you suppose ‘Mum’ realised what her son had been telling people on her behalf.
I would guess longer ago than your first guess.
I can only guess at how you see her.
I see an ocean of love with nowhere to go.
For the last forty years she has borne the burden of responsibility for our family while us three boys have borne the fruits of that effort.
If only she had had a daughter.
I can tell you that, while I appreciate my brothers efforts to ‘reach out’ to me, the irony is, he is reaching out to the wrong relative.
I can also tell you who’s right and who’s wrong simply does not matter.
The question is, ‘Does ‘Mike’ want to spend time with his mother?’
The solution to the problem is the same today as it always was and always will be.
Once a week.
Like a normal family.
Whatever that is!